End of term and the boys are in tears

15th June 2007 at 01:00
Di Beddow is deputy head at Hinchingbrooke school in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

So Lee Mead is "Joseph". He dons his coloured coat and bursts into victorious song. But it was not always so. All the Josephs have wept in the series, most spectacularly Lewis Bradley (pictured right). As Andrew Lloyd Webber noted: "We always thought the Josephs would be tougher than the Marias, but it is just not so."

Have you noticed how much more boys seem to be in touch with their sensitive, feminine side lately? Having soldiered our way through no study leave for the first time this year, staff were looking forward to the final assembly on the Friday before half-term. We have mastered the art of the final day - no more eggs, flour or hidden bottles of vodka. Instead, the shirts were all signed the day before, leaving the final day to smart workwear, photographs and formal farewells.

The head of Year 11 had worked on some students to produce beautiful slides of the year group from their entry to our school, through sports days, work experience and outdoor education weekends to the "tutor-group hugs" that had been taking place that week. Gorgeous young women sang Snow Patrol's anthem "Run" and naughty girls decked in New Look tunic dresses stood up to the microphone to thank their tutors and mentors for keeping them on track and forgiving their errant ways. Throughout, I sat at the back of the performing arts centre, planning how I was going to get 300 students off the site before the other 1,500 arrived for their lunch.

The final chords faded. The final words of wisdom were drowned in tumultuous applause and the lights came up. Girls clutched their year books, thanked a particular member of staff once more and slowly cruised through the hall, out into the avenue and off to the bus bays. I was just relaxing when I realised I had seen very few boys leave. Fearing trouble, I returned to the auditorium. Nothing in my experience prepared me for the sight before me.

Everywhere boys were sobbing - not just sniffing manfully and shaking hands, but sobbing and asking staff for a hug. We had seen many of these boys not 20 minutes before on film, returning from a football match, covered in mud, singing some inarticulate song (probably just as well it was inarticulate) which ended in a chorus of woofing, barking and chanting.

The sobbing boys were the same group - the ones the assistant head and I had spent most of the year berating for trainer-wearing, truanting and being rude to supply teachers. Never had the change in typical gender characteristics struck me more forcefully. The girls were off - into town, no doubt, then back round to a mate's to prepare for a night of celebration and then the next few weeks of revision and exams.

The boys would not go. They hung on staff shoulders and consoled each other about leaving the place about which they had told me so many times they could not wait to be clear. Yes, the tide is turning.

I eventually enlisted the help of the head of design and technology to get the boys on their way. The last I saw of them that day was a sight to remember. They put their arms around each other, dried their eyes on their Fred Perry shirts and allowed themselves to be shepherded off by the DT giant as he clutched a bouquet from his form and wiped a tear from his eye.

I predicted several weeks ago how one of the likely lads from "Joseph" destined for stardom in the West End would celebrate his rite of passage. Sure enough, on the big night it was "tears, tears, tears".

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